Maynooth University has announced a partnership with a major Chinese university which will see 1,200 Chinese science and engineering students graduate with its qualifications over the coming years.
The alliance, designed to grow Maynooth's number of postgraduate students by 60 per cent over the next five years, will see it establish a joint international college of engineering with Fuzhou University in Fujian province.
Maynooth is currently recruiting a team of 13 lecturers plus administrative support for the venture. Three hundred students will graduate annually with Maynooth University degrees through the partnership, at full capacity.
The initiative is assisted by Enterprise Ireland and is expected to pave the way for future research and innovation partnerships, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics.
Maynooth University president Prof Philip Nolan said it was a necessary move for a "bold, progressive young university".
“It is about embedding ourselves in the local culture and academic environment to strive together for world-class development,” he said.
"Fuzhou has been selected as one of the highest-potential universities in all of China and a long-term partnership is the appropriate way forward to develop a flow of knowledge, research and students."
Maynooth University is due to launch a strategic plan on Wednesday which will include details of a €300 million investment to build innovation, sports and recreation amenities, a new student centre and on-campus student accommodation for 1,000 students.
In a statement, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said the university had made “enormous strides” during its relatively short history as an independent institution.
"The plan builds on Maynooth University's work in widening participation and expanding student choice through the introduction of a new undergraduate curriculum that is regarded as the single most important development in undergraduate education in Ireland in recent years."
As part of its plan to expand its postgraduate numbers, the university projects that its doctoral community will grow to 600, while the number of master’s students will rise to 1,600.
Separately, the university is to offer the first BSc in mathematics and computer science for future teachers from next September.
The move is, partly, in response to the introduction of computer science onto the Leaving Cert curriculum shortly. Schools have also reported an acute shortage of teachers in this area.
The first qualified graduates from the course are expected to be ready to enter the teaching world in June 2024.
“A total of 40 post-primary schools nationwide are now offering computer science on a pilot basis, with the first students to take computer science as part of the Leaving Certificate exams in 2020,” Prof Nolan said.
The four-year BSc degree is a concurrent degree in which maths, computer science and education will be delivered in an integrated way.
The university has also announced a new research centre for public education and pedagogy.
It will be established to undertake research in relation to public education in Ireland and across Europe.
It aims to create a space where the benefits and needs of public education systems can be examined by academics and students, as well as visiting researchers.